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Eur J Neurosci. 2004 Jan;19(1):169-80.

First- and second-order stimulus length selectivity in New World monkey striate cortex.

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Department of Physiology, Monash University, Clayton, VIC 3800, Australia.


Motion is a powerful cue for figure-ground segregation, allowing the recognition of shapes even if the luminance and texture characteristics of the stimulus and background are matched. In order to investigate the neural processes underlying early stages of the cue-invariant processing of form, we compared the responses of neurons in the striate cortex (V1) of anaesthetized marmosets to two types of moving stimuli: bars defined by differences in luminance, and bars defined solely by the coherent motion of random patterns that matched the texture and temporal modulation of the background. A population of form-cue-invariant (FCI) neurons was identified, which demonstrated similar tuning to the length of contours defined by first- and second-order cues. FCI neurons were relatively common in the supragranular layers (where they corresponded to 28% of the recorded units), but were absent from layer 4. Most had complex receptive fields, which were significantly larger than those of other V1 neurons. The majority of FCI neurons demonstrated end-inhibition in response to long first- and second-order bars, and were strongly direction selective. Thus, even at the level of V1 there are cells whose variations in response level appear to be determined by the shape and motion of the entire second-order object, rather than by its parts (i.e. the individual textural components). These results are compatible with the existence of an output channel from V1 to the ventral stream of extrastriate areas, which already encodes the basic building blocks of the image in an invariant manner.

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